In Switzerland infection with the hepatitis E virus (HEV) occurs primarily via insufficiently heated pork or game. Other transmission methods are very rare. Beginning in autumn 2018, blood transfusions in Switzerland are tested for HEV.
When travelling in developing countries, it is important to know that drinking contaminated water can lead to an infection.
HEV infection often goes undetected because it tends to occur without symptoms and resolve spontaneously. Some patients report tiredness or fever. Dark urine or yellow-coloured skin and/or the whites of the eyes can also be present. Rarely, neurological symptoms are observed in the course of hepatitis E (including neuralgic shoulder amyotrophy or Guillain-Barré Syndrome), which may disappear after healing. The disease can become chronic in patients with weakened immune systems.
To diagnose hepatitis E, blood is tested for anti-HEV IgM (for new infections) and layer for anti-HEV IgG. Both antibodies can be detected in the blood.
In patients with existing immunodeficiency, a PCR test is usually performed directly with a blood or stool sample to detect viral RNA.
At present there is no recognised therapy for acute or chronic hepatitis E. However, ribavarin is occasionally used to treat chronic hepatitis E.